A mixed-use building that balances public and private life

Although housing was the greatest need in a bustling Bozeman neighborhood, zoning restrictions required a new building to include mixed residential and commercial uses. Here’s how the architect came up with an award-winning solution.

A street view of a mixed-use building with two parallel volumes connected via a skyway.

When Doug Minarik, AIA, of Minarik Architecture, Inc. began designing the Block 106 project in Bozeman, Montana, the challenge was to create a building that would maximize the amount of housing while complying with zoning restrictions. Here’s how he managed those constraints and created a design that balances the needs of residents and business owners alike.

How the context informed the design

Block 106 is in a neighborhood that’s quickly moving from industrial to more human-scale uses. There’s strong demand for more housing in the area. And yet, the building typologies remain tied to the historic roots of the neighborhood with lots of “simple agrarian or industrial forms,” Minarik said. He chose to use these buildings as inspiration, creating a contemporary interpretation of their “singularly shaped forms” and “deliberate roof pitches” with a design that’s characterized by clean lines and lots of glass.

Although Block 106 is one building, it presents like two with parallel volumes that connect via a second-floor skyway. Commercial spaces are on the ground floor and residential units are upstairs. Splitting the building in two distributes the space in a way that’s compliant with height and sizing restrictions while also bringing major benefits — natural light, mountain views, and more public space. An important feature of the building is the covered parking, which increased the overall square footage and thereby allowed for more residential space — no more than 50% of the total square footage could be residential.

A view of a cedar-clad building seen from the side.

The two parallel volumes that make up Block 106 allow it to meet size and height restrictions while also bringing in an abundance of natural light.

Balancing public and private needs

On the ground level, Minarik designed for as much “exposure as possible” to activate the commercial space and make it attractive to passersby. Commercial tenants have two or three walls of windows, and he made the courtyard on the ground floor more inviting by placing it in a space where one side of the building angles inward. Although the two sides are parallel, one side is set at a 90-degree angle to the street and the other is set slightly back from the street and askew to it. This creates a more intimate space that’s in contrast to the airy courtyard upstairs.

A diagram showing the footprint of Block 106 with the two parallel volumes.

The public courtyard on the street-facing side of the ground floor has a more intimate feel due to the angle of the askew volume, while the residents’ second-floor courtyard faces in the opposite direction and has an expansive feel and mountain views.

There, the courtyard faces away from the street so the angle splays outward opening up to mountain views and offering an opportunity to bring in more sunlight. Residents access their units from a hallway that borders this horseshoe-shaped space, and each unit has its own balcony that’s carved out of the mass so neighboring outdoor spaces aren’t abutting. These cut-ins and internal courtyards also allowed the opportunity to place windows on perpendicular walls so there’s an abundance of natural light but no loss of privacy. “You can look in multiple directions and never see your adjacent neighbor,” Minarik said.

Specifying the right windows and doors

Minarik was looking for large sizes and strong frames to meet both aesthetic and performance needs. He found a solution in our A-Series Patio Doors and E-Series Casement and Picture Windows.

The contemporary look of the E-Series product line fits in with the building’s style. “They have the nice, simple square profile we were looking for,” he said. The spacing from the frame to the rough opening also allowed Minarik to trim out the windows with a drywall return, as he’d envisioned. He chose the Low-E4 glass coating to help keep the heat in during Bozeman’s cold winter and out during their hot summers.

An interior shot of an open concept living room-kitchen with floor-to-ceiling windows and lots of wood cabinetry.

E-Series Casement and Picture Windows and A-Series Gliding Patio Doors on perpendicular walls ensure the condos in Block 106 get plenty of natural light.

The feedback Minarik most consistently gets about the building is just how much people love the natural light provided by the many windows. Business owners can connect with their customers and residents are at home in their “own private world,” as Minarik put it.

This project was a runner-up in the 2022 Andersen Bright Ideas Awards presented in collaboration with Dwell magazine.